Monday, 9 April 2018

UFC 223 report: Nurmagomedov holds nerve to overcome Iaquinta for UFC lightweight title


By Alistair Hendrie

After a chaotic prelude to Saturday’s UFC 223 card in Brooklyn, New York, Khabib Nurmagomedov kept his cool, outpointed Al Iaquinta and ultimately walked away with the UFC lightweight title around his waist. The Russian had to cope with both Tony Ferguson and Max Holloway pulling out with injuries during fight week, eventually using his suffocating wrestling and merciless ground-and-pound to shut out Iaquinta by verdicts of 50-45 and 50-43 (twice). 

With that, Nurmagomedov, unbeaten after 26 bouts, remains one of the most destructive fighters in the sport and “The Eagle” now only needs victories over the likes of Ferguson and Conor McGregor to complete his dominance of the division. Iaquinta, battered and bloodied at the nose, was a willing dance partner and in fact asserted his jab and enjoyed fragments of success in the latter stages. 

Nurmegomedov dominated rounds one and two, clamping onto single-leg takedowns with brute force and landing cold and clinical strikes from back mount. Iaquinta took the fight on 24 hours’ notice, though, and didn’t go down easily. The New Yorker kept his spirits despite the damage inflicted upon his face, and in rounds four and five he stood and traded punches with his exalted rival. By then, he was nevertheless behind on the scorecards and Nurmegomedov coasted behind his jab to finally win his crown. 


In the co-main event, women’s strawweight titlist Rose Namajunas showed that her 2017 knockout of Joanna Jedrzejczyk was no fluke as she flummoxed her rival in the rematch, boxing and moving to take three scores of 49-46. If their first meeting was explosive, their repeat turn was tense and technical. Although it lacked drama, Rose exhibited beautiful technique and head movement in the stand-up exchanges to hold on to her belt. 

She darted in and out of range early, with both women staggered during the first major coming-together at the end of round one. As the battle wore on, Namajunas landed the jab from all angles, boxing with speed, spite and an element of craft she hadn’t displayed previously. Although the challenger found the target with leg kicks in rounds four and five, Namajunas adjusted well and saw out her victory with uppercuts and hooks on the counter. Predictably, and naively, Joanna disputed the result, but Namajunas is a cut above the rest. 

Brazilian featherweight Renato Moicano enjoyed judges’ tallies of 30-27 (twice) and 29-28 over Calvin Kattar, earning the nod through brutal leg kicks and a varied selection of punches. Moicano upped the tempo in round three, forcing his rival’s back to the fence with vicious hooks, elbows and knees up close. After also shutting down Jeremy Stephens in 2017, the 28-year-old has the cardio, game-planning ability and size – at 5 foot 11 – to make a name for himself at 145lbs.



Meanwhile, Zabit Magomedsharipov’s seemingly cast-iron decision over Kyle Bochniak – 30-27 (twice) and 29-28 – is a new entrant into the list of fights you need to see before you die. Seriously, stop reading this report, find video footage of the fight, and sit back and enjoy the mayhem. Undeterred by giving up five inches in height, Bochniak gleefully rushed into the eye of a storm and ate an array of wheel kicks, switch kicks and spinning back fists. The pace was furious throughout and both men swung wildly in the last thirty seconds, with Bochniak absorbing an onslaught of straight punches in order to land his own haymakers. It’s clear that Magomedsharipov has world class potential and overwhelming physical gifts at 145lbs, but Bochniak is a savage to keep an eye on. Dates with Kattar or Shane Burgos would be thrilling. 

Elsewhere on the main card, lightweight Chris Gruetzmacher’s two-round beatdown of Joe Lauzon was uncomfortable to watch, particularly in the second phase when Gruetzmacher’s hooks, knees and crosses smashed through Lauzon’s guard, leaving “Creepy Joe” with a mish-mash of seeping cuts across his face and two purple bruises ballooning from below his eyes. In the end, Lauzon lived up to his moniker and looked like something out a horror movie. 

On FS1 Prelims, women’s strawweight Karolina Kowalkiewicz edged Felice Herrig by scorecards of 29-28 (twice) and one 28-29 in the other direction, while women’s flyweight Ashlee Evans-Smith boxed rings around the smaller Bec Rawlings for three 30-27s. Elsewhere, lightweight Olivier Aubin-Mercier knocked the wind out of Evan Dunham’s sails with a body assault in round one, while 205lbs hopeful Devin Clark outdid Mike Rodriguez by two 30-27s and one 29-28.

Let us know who Nurmagomedov should tackle next - Ferguson? McGregor? Or even Georges St-Pierre? - by reaching out on Twitter

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Who is the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world?


By Alistair Hendrie

To determine the best fighter in the world, you need to take into account plenty of factors: form, skill, opposition and dominance, for example. So, if a champion defends his or her crown via a string of finishes, does that equal or better a run of decisions? Should Conor McGregor top the list despite his inactivity, or should Tyron Woodley set the pace regardless of a couple of boring fights?

It’s a debate which rings around gyms, television studios, offices and of course pubs all over the world, and that’s exactly why Alistair Hendrie Sport will be releasing its pound-for-pound list at the start of every month.

To qualify for the list, a fighter should be considered active, so although Georges St-Pierre, for instance, is one of the most skilled and dominant fighters on the planet, he vacated his middleweight title, leaving him dormant for the moment.

Now that you know the criteria we’re looking for and pre-requisites for entry, take a look at the pound-for-pound best mixed martial artists in the world.

Male – April 2018

1 – Demetrious Johnson (USA) (125lbs)
2 – Max Holloway (USA) (145lbs)
3 – Daniel Cormier (USA) (205lbs)
4 – Stipe Miocic (USA) (265lbs)
5 – Jon Jones (USA) (205lbs)
6 – Conor McGregor (IRL) (155lbs)
7 – Tyron Woodley (USA) (170lbs)
8 – Robert Whittaker (AUS) (185lbs)
9 – Tony Ferguson (USA) (155lbs)
10 – TJ Dillashaw (USA) (135lbs)
11 – Jose Aldo (BRA) (145lbs)
12 – Cody Garbrandt (USA) (135lbs)
13 – Rafael dos Anjos (BRA) (170lbs)
14 – Yoel Romero (CUB) (185lbs)
15 – Francis Ngannou (FRA) (265lbs)
16 – Robbie Lawler (USA) (170lbs)
17 – Stephen Thompson (USA) (170lbs)
18 – Dominic Cruz (USA) (135lbs)
19 – Khabib Nurmagomedov (RUS) (155lbs)
20 – Brian Ortega (USA) (145lbs) (NE)
21 – Frankie Edgar (USA) (145lbs) (-1)
22 – Volkan Ozdemir (SWI) (205lbs) (-1)
23 – Michael Bisping (GBR) (185lbs) (-1)
24 – Luke Rockhold (USA) (185lbs) (-1)
25 – Edson Barboza (BRA) (155lbs) (-1)

April 2018 – Female

1 – Amanda Nunes (BRA) (135lbs)
2 – Rose Namajunas (USA) (115lbs)
3 – Joanna Jedrzejczyk (POL) (115lbs)
4 – Cris Cyborg (BRA) (145lbs)
5 – Valentina Schevchenko (UKR) (125lbs)
6 – Jessica Andrade (BRA) (115lbs)
7 – Tecia Torres (USA) (115lbs)
8 – Raquel Pennington (USA) (135lbs)
9 – Holly Holm (USA) (145lbs)
10 – Claudia Gadhela (BRA) (115lbs)
11 – Nicco Montano (USA) (125lbs)
12 - Tonya Evinger (USA) (135lbs)
13 - Megan Anderson (AUS) (145lbs)
14 - Karolina Kowalkiewicz (POL) (115lbs)
15 - Barb Honchak (USA) (125lbs)
16 - Carla Esparza (USA) (115lbs)
17 - Felice Herrig (USA) (115lbs)
18 - Cynthia Calvillo (USA) (115lbs)
19 - Germaine de Randamie (NED) (145lbs)
20 - Alexis Davis (CAN) (125lbs)
21 - Julliana Pena (USA) (135lbs)
22 - Angela Lee (CAN) (105lbs)
23 Sara McMann (USA) (135lbs)
24 - Jennifer Maia (BRA) (125lbs)
25 – Marion Renau (NE)

Whether you agree or disagree with our standings, join in the discussion and let us know your pound-for-pound lists on Twitter.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Who is the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world?


By Alistair Hendrie

To determine the best fighter in the world, you need to take into account plenty of factors: form, skill, opposition and dominance, for example. So, if a champion defends his or her crown via a string of finishes, does that equal or better a run of decisions? Should Conor McGregor top the list despite his inactivity, or should Tyron Woodley set the pace regardless of a couple of boring fights?

It’s a debate which rings around gyms, television studios, offices and of course pubs all over the world, and that’s exactly why Alistair Hendrie Sport will be releasing its pound-for-pound list at the start of every month.

To qualify for the list, a fighter should be considered active, so although Georges St-Pierre, for instance, is one of the most skilled and dominant fighters on the planet, he vacated his middleweight title, leaving him dormant for the moment.

Now that you know the criteria we’re looking for and pre-requisites for entry, take a look at the pound-for-pound best mixed martial artists in the world.

Male – March 2018

1 – Demetrious Johnson (USA) (125lbs)
2 – Max Holloway (USA) (145lbs)
3 – Daniel Cormier (USA) (205lbs)
4 – Stipe Miocic (USA) (265lbs)
5 – Conor McGregor (IRL) (155lbs) (+1)
6 – Tyron Woodley (USA) (170lbs) (+1)
7 – Robert Whittaker (AUS) (185lbs) (+1)
8 – Tony Ferguson (USA) (155lbs) (+1)
9 – TJ Dillashaw (USA) (135lbs) (+1)
10 – Jose Aldo (BRA) (145lbs) (+1)
11 – Cody Garbrandt (USA) (135lbs) (+1)
12 – Rafael dos Anjos (BRA) (170lbs) (+1)
13 – Yoel Romero (CUB) (185lbs) (NE)
14 – Francis Ngannou (FRA) (265lbs)
15 – Robbie Lawler (USA) (170lbs)
16 – Stephen Thompson (USA) (170lbs)
17 – Dominic Cruz (USA) (135lbs)
18 – Khabib Nurmagomedov (RUS) (155lbs)
19 – Frankie Edgar (USA) (155lbs)
20 – Volkan Ozdemir (SWI) (205lbs)
21 – Michael Bisping (GBR) (185lbs)
22 – Luke Rockhold (USA) (185lbs)
23 – Edson Barboza (BRA) (155lbs)
24 – Rory McDonald (CAN) (170lbs)
25 - Alex Gustafsson (SWE) (205lbs)

March 2018 – Female

1 – Amanda Nunes (BRA) (135lbs)
2 – Rose Namajunas (USA) (115lbs)
3 – Joanna Jedrzejczyk (POL) (115lbs)
4 – Cris Cyborg (BRA) (145lbs)
5 – Valentina Schevchenko (UKR) (125lbs)
6 – Jessica Andrade (BRA) (115lbs) (+1)
7 – Tecia Torres (USA) (115lbs) (-1)
8 – Raquel Pennington (USA) (135lbs)
9 – Holly Holm (USA) (145lbs)
10 – Claudia Gadhela (BRA) (115lbs)
11 – Nicco Montano (USA) (125lbs)
12 - Tonya Evinger (USA) (135lbs)
13 - Megan Anderson (AUS) (145lbs)
14 - Karolina Kowalkiewicz (POL) (115lbs)
15 - Barb Honchak (USA) (125lbs)
16 - Carla Esparza (USA) (115lbs) (NE)
17 - Felice Herrig (USA) (115lbs)
18 - Cynthia Calvillo (USA) (115lbs)
19 - Germaine de Randamie (NED) (145lbs)
20 - Alexis Davis (CAN) (125lbs)
21 - Julliana Pena (USA) (135lbs) (+1)
22 - Angela Lee (CAN) (105lbs) (+1)
23 Sara McMann (USA) (135lbs) (-2)
24 - Jennifer Maia (BRA) (125lbs)
25 – Marion Renau (NE)

Whether you agree or disagree with our standings, join in the discussion and let us know your pound-for-pound lists on Twitter.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Cage Warriors 90 Report: McCann takes out Tyrell in round two to win flyweight prize

By Alistair Hendrie

Molly McCann announced herself as one of Britain’s brightest non-UFC prospects on Saturday night, knocking out Bryony Tyrell with relentless punches to lift the Cage Warriors women’s flyweight title. Buoyed by raptures of support at Liverpool’s Echo Arena, McCann worked her way into the fight and eventually rattled off a salvo of straight punches and digs to the body that left Tyrell turning away and in no state to continue. McCann moves to 7-1 and judging by her bravado, exciting fights and prowess on the mic, she looks like a star in the making.

The scouser probed for openings in round one, pumping out her jab and straight punches and catching Tyrell’s kicks. McCann kept her guard up and maintained a high level of activity, but her strikes – more spiteful than her rival's – whistled past their target. Credit to her, Tyrell switched up the rhythm by throwing leg kicks and question mark kicks. She also offered different looks, switching to a karate stance and landing her side kick.

However, by round two, McCann’s sturdier frame at 125lbs and superior power took its toll. The Next Generation MMA stand-out surged in with hooks around Tyrell’s guard. As McCann ramped up the output, ‘Killa Bee’’s defence’s deserted her. Piston straights and hooks crashed into Tyrell’s head. Tumbling forward, Tyrell turned away with referee Marc Goddard waving the bout off immediately.

McCann claimed she wants to defend her title but truth be told, Cage Warriors may find it difficult to find any worthy opponents. Indeed, Kate Jackson is tied up with Bellator, while Cage Warriors’ former leading 125lb-ers – such as Pannie Kianzad and Agnieska Niedzwiedz – are now signed to Invicta. McCann may need another year of seasoning to reach the UFC, but Tyrell, at 38, has perhaps missed her chance.

The co-main event featured a redemptive victory for Norwegian lightweight Alexander Jacobsen, who demolished Lawrence Fitzpatrick in the opening seconds with a looping hook at range. Jacobsen was coming off a defeat to world titlist Chris Fishgold but the Scandinavian looked rejuvenated with his old foe in his corner for support.

‘Bad Romance’ bundled forward with a tirade of punches which barely missed their intended destination. Jacobsen, though, was in no mood to hang around – as the theory goes, if you swing wildly five times, you might land once. That’s exactly what Jacobsen did. His hook thudded into Fitzpatrick’s jaw, sending the Liverpudlian to the canvas in a crumpled heap. Jacobsen postured up beautifully, landing ground and pound at will to put his opponent out of commission.

Also on the main card, German heavyweight Ruben Wolf turned the tables on scouser Shawn Kenny, winning a scramble in round two to lock up an americana. Both men tasted the canvas in a slobber-knocker for the ages, Wolf after a crude hit over the top, and Kenny after fighting fire with fire on the inside. While Kenny edged the opener with the better footwork and combinations, he let the bout slip through his fingers when he gave up side control. Wolf jumped on the americana and as soon as he cranked it, that was all it took.

Paddy Pimblett returned to Cage Warriors in similarly explosive fashion with an arm-triangle over Alex Savvidis in round two of their lightweight collision. The Next Generation MMA man showed all his wit and skill on the mat in round one and he finished the job in the next phase, jumping up for a flying triangle. Once he’d sealed the triangle from the bottom, he heaved pressure onto the point of the elbow and earned one of UK MMA’s most memorable submissions.

Speaking of which, Pimblett’s 155lbs team-mate, Elliot Jenkins, also earned a tap with a first round head-and-arm choke over Josh Abraham. Jenkins brought his A-game with smart ground and pound and he never let up once he earned top position. There was another submission for Warrington weltweight Matthew Bonner, who ended Mick Stanton with a rear naked choke in the dying fragments on round two. In the same division Andreas Tricomitis edged past Mark Kinsella via a split decision, while Bobby Pallett undid Dillon Manning in the first session with a head-and-arm choke.

Read about Bryony Tyrell's career in nursing and her thoughts on Brexit in Alistair Hendrie Sport's exclusive interview. 

Friday, 23 February 2018

Cage Warriors 90 Preview: McCann guns for hometown glory against Tyrell


By Alistair Hendrie

Liverpool’s Molly McCann takes centre stage on Saturday night, as she aims to take full advantage of local support when she faces Bryony Tyrell for the vacant Cage Warriors flyweight title in the main event at Cage Warriors 90. The proud scouser, who has spoken out against knife crime and bullying in her local area, is an ardent Everton fan and has built a reputation in her hometown for her exciting fights and measured aggression.

Embodying the Next Generation style of working behind the jab, McCann sets her attacks up beautifully and disrupts the rhythm with teep kicks and low kicks. Now 3-1 as a pro, she weathered early takedowns against Priscilla de Souza in October 2017 to tee off with strikes from the outside and earn a lopsided decision.

Funnily enough, McCann used to compete out of Ippon in Bournemouth. It was back then that she frequently trained with Tyrell, who resides 45 minutes from Bournemouth at Exiles MMA in Southampton. Tyrell has a background in striking and clinched the BCMMA and 360 strawweight titles in her early career, shutting out her opponents with a blend of kicks and timely takedowns. She works diligently from back mount, and looked impressive in drawing with Lanchana Green and stopping Jade Barker-Morge with a succession of ground-and-pound.


Although Tyrell claims she is on friendly terms with McCann, that should go out of the window once the cage door shuts. Expect ‘Meatball’ McCann to push the pace and work from the outside. Her best chance of glory would be to back Tyrell against the fence and slowly but surely break her down. She’ll be able to do that if she sticks to her jab and mixes up her kicks. However, Tyrell is a decent striker herself, and could find inroads though strikes to the head and body. I do feel, though, that McCann’s aggression and youth will help her grab a world title on home turf.

Speaking of titles, Alexander Jacobsen had a shot at lightweight gold at Cage Warriors 88 against Chris Fishgold. Eventually, the Norwegian tapped to a rear naked choke after shipping a barrage of pressure, but Jacobsen returns in Saturday’s co-main event against Liverpool’s Lawrence Fitzpatrick.

Although Jacobsen is happy to walk through punishment to land his own blows, his takedowns are especially powerful. He drives his opponents across the cage, scoring a range of trips, throws and double-leg drives. He boasts power in each fist and is particularly adept at punching around the guard from top position.

Fitzpatrick, though, is another excellent wrestler. Sharpening his skills on the north-west scene, the scouser is more than capable of dominating from half guard and side control. He owns a rear naked choke over the former Pride and Cage Rage maverick, Charles ‘Krazy Horse’ Bennett, and holds three submissions and three knockouts on his 6-1 ledger.


I feel it’s time for Fitzpatrick to step up to the best in Europe, and of course Jacobsen represents a move in the right direction. This bout will come down to who can dictate the pace and Fitzpatrick could earn the win if he scores an early takedown and works intelligently for the submission.

Also on the main card, Liverpool’s Echo Arena crowd will brace itself for fireworks as another local, heavyweight Shawn Kenny, goes up against Germany’s Ruben Wolf. Kenny is a true throwback who loves trading in the pocket. The Next Generation stand-out was in frightening form in April 2017, cutting down Cian Erraught with a volley of knees and punches. Wolf is no slouch, though, carving out an 11-10 career in which he’s defeated UFC fighter James Mulheron and also snapped up the Made 4 The Cage title. Kenny is nevertheless one of the hottest prospects in the north-west and should have too much variety for the visitor.

In a sign of the times, Liverpool’s darling Paddy Pimblett opens up the main card against Alexis Savvidis, having scaled up to lightweight after dropping his 145lbs title to Nad Narimani. ‘The Baddy’ throws up some of the most opportunistic jiu jitsu attacks in the British scene, showing deft back-takes and guard passes to rack up six submission wins amongst his 13-2 ledger.

On the other hand, Savvidis explodes forward with wheel kicks and a plethora of spinning attacks. Think Cub Swanson, only even more unpredictable – yes, he’s that exciting. Both men put themselves at risk in order to get the W, and credit should go to matchmaker Ian Dean for creating a lovely stylistic match-up. I’ll stick my neck on the line and pick Paddy.


On the undercard, Next Generation’s slick grappler Elliot Jenkins will aim to climb the lightweight ladder against Josh Abraham. Working on the mat with a poker face to rival Gunnar Nelson, Jenkins attacks the limbs in a cerebral manner and should be a good bet for a submission victory. Abraham, though, is an all-action kind of fighter and rolls with the scrambles beautifully. A jiu jitsu war looks likely.

The rest of the undercard takes shape with a trio of welterweight scraps. Tall striker Matthew Stanton will look to assert his range of kicks against Mick Stanton, while Bobby Pallet tackles Dillon Manning and Andreas Tricomitis squares off with Mark Kinsella. Finally, extra value is provided on the night with a full amateur card, showcasing local hopes such as Jay Seddon and Jordan Baxter.

Stay tuned to Alistair Hendrie Sport for all the reaction after what promises to be an exciting night of fights in Liverpool.